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Female Referees Abused and Ignored!

Zimbabwe Football Association
The Zimbabwe Football Association is the governing body of football in Zimbabwe. It is responsible for organising the national football competitions in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe national football teams. The current ZIFA was founded in 1979.

Female Referees Abused and Ignored!

AFTER weeks of investigations, we have finally laid our hands on the sensitive reports, which formed the basis on which a number of referees in this country bravely decided to confront the beast in which they were being abused, harassed and manipulated on the basis of their gender.

There are graphic details, including some which cannot be printed even in a tabloid newspaper like this one, but they all point to a culture of abuse in which the female referees were turned into objects meant just to satisfy the ego of their male bosses.

These reports, and complaints, have already found their way into the corridors of such powerful organisations like FIFA, the world football controlling body, but the referees kept getting frustrated by a wicked system, which seemingly considered them as individuals, which didn’t deserve protection and support.

The reports have also been filed with CAF, COSAFA and ZIFA.

We will be publishing some of the reports, of course, fully aware that we also need to protect some of the referees, who require such protection, and feel publication of their names will transform them into targets, in their communi-ties.

Many of them say they now have mental health issues, after being forced to fight for their rights, in an environment which didn’t appear to be kind to their battle.

They claim the suspended ZIFA board kept ignoring their pleas, and protests, maybe because they wanted to protect some of their colleagues, who have been implicated.

However, the local referees are not alone, in finding themselves being ignored by some powerful figures in world football, while their shocking treatment sent them into a meltdown.

Two years ago, the then coach of the Afghanistan women’s soccer team said she

was disgusted with FIFA and their president, Gianni Infantino, for not taking action earlier and more rigorously, to investigate an abuse scandal that engulfed football in that country.

This followed FIFA’s decision to ban for life the former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation, Kerammudin Keram, after their Ethics Committee found him guilty of abusing his position to abuse female players.

The abuse of the five Afghan players stretched from 2013 to 2018 but FIFA only started acting three years ago.

“It’s disgusting that there is no structure to investigate something like this, that there’s no system yet,” Kelly Lindsey, an American, who was the coach of the Afghan national team, told Reuters news agency.

“You’re told over and over again ‘Well, you’re not going through the system.’ There is no clear system.

“Even when you put in a report you get nothing back. Nobody responds. You can send it through all layers of AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA – you’ll get nothing back.

“I’m disgusted by him (Infantino) and I would say to his face. I’m disgusted that this is the response that was given to a case like this.

“They cannot continue like this and just let players, coaches, referees be abused behind the scenes and brush it under the rug.”

A number of leading officials, in domestic football, are implicated by the local referees, in their reports.

They show a culture of impunity, in which the female referees were seen as mere tools and, in some instances, their pathway to promotion was blocked simply because, they claim, they rejected some of the advances.

For the first time, yesterday, FIFA appeared to address the referees’ concerns, even though the world football governing body have been accused of having ignored the complaints, which they have been filing.

“Furthermore, FIFA has a zero-tolerance policy to any form of corruption as well as sexual abuses of any sort in foot-ball,” FIFA said in a statement.

However, sources told H-Metro this was just meant to provide FIFA with a fallback position, as the case of the local referees continues to catch the attention of the world.

“It’s a clever way by FIFA to say that, okay, in a way, we know there could be something that was happening there and, for us to be accused of turning a blind eye to that, we have this statement which we will show to the world that we don’t legislate for such conduct,” said a legal expert, who chose not to be named.

“It’s very clear this case won’t die a natural death and FIFA knows that, especially given the interest in such cases in the game, and they know something big is coming and they want to shield themselves so that they are not criticised, as was the case in the past.”

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